Groton A small boys' school in western Massachusetts, started
under the leadership of Reverend Endicott Peabody. The school had
the support of many of the leading men in America, including J.P. Morgan,
and attracted the children of the wealthiest and most prominent
families in America, including young Franklin Delano Roosevelt,
who was sent to Groton at the age of fourteen.
Harvard One of America's first institutions of higher learning,
this was the place where most of the country's most prominent individuals,
including Theodore and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, received their
Tammany Hall Originally one of many patriotic societies set up in
many American societies, the one in New York City was the only
one that endured. The party gained power by seducing the new immigrant
vote with patronage in the form of food, clothing, jobs, and fuel.
Though plagued by corruption on every level, the party's leaders
or "bosses" were heavily influential in New York politics for decades.
FDR's struggle and reconciliation with the bosses of Tammany Hall
was one of the defining characteristics of his time in the New
Progressivism As the country became increasingly aware of the problems
of rapid urbanization and industrialization in the late 19th and early
20th centuries, the Progressive movement responded to these changes
by advocating urban reform and attacking corruption. Progressivism
in state and national government, a movement in which FDR played
a large role, succeeded under the leadership of Woodrow Wilson in
fighting trusts and monopolies, reforming the currency system and
restricting child labor. Progressivism finally lost its momentum
in the wake of WWI, and it was not until the New Deal that the
spirit of reform once again entered the nation.
New Deal A term first used in Roosevelt's speech at the Democratic nomination
convention in Chicago in 1932, the New Deal was the name given
to his program of reforms. The legislation that comprised the New
Deal was passed in two rounds. The legislation passed during the
first Hundred Days was aimed at recovery and relief, and included
the AAA, CCC, PWA, and the NRA. The second round of legislation
comprised of more long-term reform such as the Social Security
System, labor reform, and farmers' subsidies. The New Deal was the
signal of a substantial change in the role of American government
in its citizens' lives. For the first time, the government took responsibility
for the basic welfare of its citizens, a radical departure from
its earlier structure.
Isolationism After the shocking horrors of World War I, in which
thousands of men died in a war across the seas, the country became
prey to isolationist tendencies. Woodrow Wilson faced a country
so adamant to close its eyes to the world beyond its borders that
he could not convince the nation to join the League of Nations,
which eventually collapsed without US participation. The late entry
of the United States into the Second World War was due to the isolationist
sentiment that gripped the nation.
Brain Trust The Brain Trust was the nickname coined by New York newspapers
for the group of political advisors that Roosevelt gathered together
to help him gain the presidential nomination in 1932. The group
included political scientist Raymond Moley and the lawyer Adolf
Berle. They wrote the momentous "Forgotten Man" speech, which Roosevelt
delivered in 1932, confirming his progressive agenda and gaining
him much positive publicity.
Hundred Days Immediately upon entering office, the enthusiastic
President Roosevelt called Congress to an Emergency Session that
lasted from March 9 through June 16, 1933, in which the body passed all
the major legislation of the first New Deal. This included the creation
of the CCC, the AAA, the NRA, and the Emergency Banking Act.
Fireside Chats Roosevelt had employed the radio to good advantage
since his days as governor of New York. He used the radio to speak directly
to the people, using his skill at oratory to good advantage. The
first Fireside Chat delivered the weekend before the banks were
to reopen set the standard for those to follow. He explained his
reasoning behind the proposed legislation and the intended beneficial
effects. He also used the medium to convey his perennial optimism
to the people. When the banks reopened the next morning, deposits
outranked withdrawals for the first time in months, revealing that
FDR's assurances were received with trust and his boundless optimism
was contagious. The Fireside Chats are one of the most memorable
features of Roosevelt's Presidency.
Court-packing plan Roosevelt proposed the bill in the afterglow of his
1936 landslide election, miscalculating the public's reaction to
an attack on what most people considered to be one of the pillars
of American democracy. Roosevelt proposed that he be allowed to add
another member to the Supreme Court for every member over seventy
who had not retired, under the pretense that the Court was not
able to handle its caseload. This bill was quickly vetoed by his
own party and greatly decreased Roosevelt's power.
duck period Before amendments were passed that changed this situation, there
was a period of more than four months between the time that presidents
were elected and the time that they were inaugurated. During this
period the old President had very little power in office because
of his impending departure, hence his title of lame duck.
Lend-Lease When WWII broke out in Europe, an isolationist Congress passed
a series of Neutrality Acts to guarantee that the US would not
get involved in another bloody conflict, one of which stated that
munitions would only be sold to warring nations on a cash and carry
policy. FDR was a staunch supporter of aid to Britain, if not of
full out war, and invented the lend-lease plan to circumvent the
Neutrality Acts when he received a letter from Churchill desperately
pleading for more arms. Roosevelt decided that rather than selling
munitions to Britain, Americans could lend or lease resources as
necessary. This plan allowed Britain to continue fighting the war.
World War I
An assassination of the Archduke of Austria by a young
Serbian sparked a war that was to be termed the "Great War" by
those who lived through it. World War I began in Europe because
of the number of secret alliances and treaties made between the various
states. America's entry into the war in 1917 provided useful training
for FDR, the future war President who was then Assistant Secretary
of the Navy.
Newport Sex Scandal
Roosevelt was accused by Republican legislators of involvement in
a homosexuality scandal at a Newport navy base that had been under
his control during his time at the Navy department. It was testament
to his political wiles that he managed to escape this ordeal with
his political cachet intact.
Roosevelt was vacationing with his family at Campobello
during one of his rare times without a political position when
he was suddenly paralyzed by polio. Although doctors were initially optimistic,
they soon realized that Roosevelt would never walk again without
help. Many cite this event as changing profoundly Roosevelt's basic
nature, giving him the humanity and empathy that he had previously
Although it had all the characteristics of traditional
economic crises, the Great Depression was singularly long and powerful, inflicting
poverty and suffering on a scale heretofore unseen in the business
cycle in America. Possible causes include the unequal distribution
of wealth during the 1920s, unsound investment practices, and severe
cutback in foreign trade due to both worldwide depression and the
institution of high tariffs. The Great Depression only ended with
the advent of war in the 1940s, when the burgeoning munitions industries
ended rampant unemployment.
This meeting of Churchill, Stalin, and FDR in the Black
Sea city of Yalta (from February 4–11, 1945) was held to discuss
the shape of the post-war world. The Yalta conference was buoyed by
impending Allied victory in Europe. The conferees reaffirmed their
commitment to unconditional surrender from Germany, made plans
for dividing Germany for occupation, made compromises on the future
of Poland and the other Eastern European states, and agreed that
Russia would enter the war in Asia if needed after the end of war
on the Continent. The shape of the United Nations was also agreed
upon as well as the voting procedures. Russia was given two extra
votes to mollify Stalin's complaint that America and Britain had
a far greater number of countries in their sphere of influence.
FDR was sharply criticized for his inability to prevent Russian
takeover of Eastern Europe and for allowing the creation of the
foundation of the Cold War.
Japanese planes hit this harbor on the Southern Coast
of the island of Oahu in Hawaii on December 7, 1941. In this devastating
attack on the United States, eight battleships, eleven other naval
vessels, and 188 aircraft were destroyed. The death toll was 2,280
soldiers and sixty-eight civilians, and 1,109 people were wounded.
Although FDR was accused by some historians of being complicit in
the attack on Pearl Harbor as a means of inciting the country into
entering the war, the toll taken on American life and military
equipment is far too much for Roosevelt to have even known about
the attack beforehand and allowed it to happen. The day after the
incident, the US declared war on Japan. Three days later, Germany
and Italy declared war on the US.